Maybe It’s the Light

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Bright Evening, Joshua Tree National Park, California, USA

Bright Evening, Joshua Tree National Park, California, USA

Each of these two photos is interesting in its own way, to me. I was trying to educate myself on composition and lighting. And I have a lot to learn.  As with all art what interests one person may be inconsequential to another.

There are the technical aspects of apeture, shutter speed, ISO, focus etc. Then there is the personal composition-why that vantage point; what is shown in the photograph; what is not shown; what is suggested; what was he thinking; was it just intriguing at the moment without a coherent intention; was it just a reaction to a setting?

I don’t know if I had a coherent intention but I was interested in these exposed granitoid boulders, the sand that crumbled off and accumulated below them, the scruffy collection of grasses and forbs, the sky, the horizon of rock, the lighting, the big isolated oblong boulder leaning heavily on the solid clean exposed rock, the tilted boulders behind on the left, and the three little bumps on the top of the rock on the right. Taken together the group of features caught my attention.

I went there twice. I set up the tripod in the same spot two evenings in a row. They’re not exactly the same composition, but they are close.

Cloudy Dusk, Joshua Tree National Park, California, USA

Cloudy Dusk, Joshua Tree National Park, California, USA

This is Joshua Tree National Park in the Mojave Desert in southern California, USA. It was August and the evening light was intense just before sunset. After sunset the light faded slowly and the dusk lasted a long time. There aren’t many visitors in the park in August even though these were weekend afternoons.

The sky in the upper photo is clear and the sun was low. The  light and shadows are strong. The rock seems solid and permanent. It is a harsh scene. Each feature is strong and separate. Photo: 1/60 s at f/22.

The sky is clouded in the lower photo and the shadow behind the leaning boulder is faint. The main light source is still from the left, as this view is to the north. This photo was taken the day before, but an hour later, than the other photo. The lower photo is softer in general, but also the features blend together. The grass and forbs don’t seem so different from the rock. The sky is more interesting. The photo is more contemplative. Photo: 1/8 s at f/14.

The two photos are dramatically different, but nearly identical. If either of them are interesting to you please let me know which one, and if you want to, let me know why. Do you have any comments about the differences?

There are more Joshua Tree National Park and Mojave Desert photos in the Photo Gallery at my website:




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