Beauty in the Less Obvious

March 31, 2021  •  Leave a Comment

Especially when photographing in and around national parks, I'm always looking for different veiwpoints and alternate ways to capture the essence of the location.

Big landscapes are great; people like them. They sell. But intimate scenes are just as interesting and effective - and they're often more unique. A series combining small vignettes along with some more iconic landmarks enables the photographer to tell a more complete story.

I like the challenge of distilling a scene to its core elements. For me, the key to finding vignettes is to keep an open mind. I take my time and try to let the place guide me.  

At Moab, Utah - home to Arches National Park and Canyonlands National Park - one of the "stories" (of course) is the red rock. Poking around the Colorado River just east of town recently I noticed some great looking trees. They hadn't yet leafed out; what caught my eye was the combination of their graceful shapes and the fact that they were really popping against the canyon walls (the sun had just poked through a mostly overcast sky which created spectacular backlighting). 

I walked around them for a while but couldn't find a good vantage point before losing the light.

While I didn't come anywhere close to making a photograph there (the camera never came out of the bag), I began looking out for other opportunities with similar isolated trees. 

Later that week along another stretch of the Colorado, I found more potential candidates. I spent quite a bit of time one morning with three different trees. As the sun continued to climb, the lighting improved. Sounds counterintuitive, right?

Mid-day light doesn't have the greatest reputation. To be sure, it can be tough to work with. It's flat. Harsh. It creates deep shadows. But depending on what you're shooting - like these trees - it can be just the ticket. The backlighting was spectacular. Without it you might not have even noticed them.

A few miles further downriver I found my "keeper." 

This tree, with its lovely lines, stood alone. Behind it was a canyon wall (a telephoto lens further compressed the scene). The dramatic backlighting made the branches pop. The tree nearly sparkled. 

It's a more subtle way of telling Moab's red rock story. 

As for that much maligned mid-day light, I made this photograph at about 11:45am. You can shoot in the middle of the day. You just have to know what to look for and how to expose properly.

GracefulGracefulNear Moab, Utah



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