Temple Rocks

Those of you who have followed me for awhile have probably seen some of my posts about Capitol Reef National Park.  In the far eastern section of the park, there are some amazing rock formations known as the Cathedrals.  These are only accessed from a long 4 wheel drive road.

Cathedral 1 wp
These are the Cathedrals.  In the foreground is the Temple of the Sun, and the Temple of the Moon is in the background.

While I was hiking around these enormous formations, I was looking for some views that may offer a different perspective and that may not have already been photographed.  I was also playing around with my fisheye lens as it offers such an interesting and unique view.  Here is what I found that day in 2012.

Cathedral rocks wp
I was down in a wash a little to the southwest of the Temple of the Sun formation when I saw this view.  The fisheye really does some weird things with the clouds, almost making them look like a van Gogh painting.

The eroded sandstone formations on the edge of the wash really struck me, especially in contrast to the Temple of the Sun.  Now you all know that I have been doing quite a bit in monochrome lately, so my curiosity got the best of me.  I had to see what this original shot would look like in black and white.

If you have been following me for awhile, you know I am also experimenting with various black and white conversions sometimes using infrared and other tonal schemes to alter the appearance of the reds, blues and greens.

In an infrared conversion filter. the reddish tones in a color photo appear quite light when converted to black and white.  And the blues, like a darker blue sky, will go almost black.  So, the various conversion filters allow me to alter the appearance of those three main colors.  Well, here is what I came up with after some time spent in Photoshop Elements.

Cathedral rocks BW 169 81W wp
This photograph was done using an infrared conversion, with some additional “tweaks” that I’ll discuss below.

The first step in the process is always making sure that the color photograph has a full tonal range from black to white.  A lot of people don’t pay attention to contrast and tonal ranges in color, but for a rich looking photo that is important.  As I said above, I used the basic infrared conversion settings, but I darkened the reds just a bit.  And then I did a final contrast adjustment taking care not to “blow out” that sunlit cloud just above the horizon on the left third of the photograph.

Now, once I got that basic black and white tonal range just where I wanted it, I then applied an 81 warming filter with a 36% concentration.  The warming filter just takes away some of that cool greyish tones.  Since we are looking at the red rock desert, I felt like the warming filter brought in a hint of that warm, desert feel.

Cathedral rocks BW wp
This is the same photograph before I applied the 81 filter.  The rocks seem “cooler” here due to the neutral gray tones.

Now I know that some of you may not care for this photograph at all.  Some folks are real purists and would feel that I have crossed the line here with too many manipulations.  I mean the fisheye lens was odd enough on its own, but then making this strange monotone image that isn’t even quite black and white, might be too much.  My wife doesn’t particularly like the fisheye images; she thinks they look unnatural.  

But that is the wonderful thing about art.  Each of us get to have our own opinion and still be “right”.  Now, I will argue that these manipulations are not straying from real photography.  Why?

First, in the days of film I certainly could have brought two camera bodies and shot the same scene in color with one body and in black and white with another, using the same fisheye lens.  It is simply a matter of personal preference which shot I would have used for a final picture.  Second, back in the day when I shot film, I could adjust the contrast range of a photograph somewhat in both the film processing and the print processing.  A little longer or shorter in the developer, stop bath or even different water temperature can make those fine tuning adjustments.  And lastly, I could have used a certain printing paper to help bring out that warm tone.

So, I conclude that I am doing no more in the software than I would have done in the lab.  But I only needed one shot to do the whole thing.  That’s the beauty of our digital age.

For me, I love the monochrome here because it really brings out that sky detail.  And the Temple of the Sun seems even more prominent in the black and white against those lighter clouds.  And I think that the lack of color allows one to really focus on the shapes and tones, rather than the colors.  What drew me to this scene originally was the flowing, rounded shapes of the wash rocks blending with the curvy clouds against that monolithic Temple of the Sun.  And I just feel that the monochrome brings out those features better than the color version.

So, what do you all think?

Drop me a note and let me know; I love the feedback.  And I do appreciate you visiting my blog.  Thank you!