Balanced Rock Alpenglow
full print size of 21.6x31.6 inches @304.8ppi, above displayed at 1/178
Copyright © David Senesac 2005 view detailed crop
Arches National Park, Grand County, Utah
Sunset Sunday May 24 2005, slide 05-L-61
Wisner 4x5 Expedition, 150mm Nikkor, Gitzo G1325 Mk2
Tango Drum scanned Fuji Provia 100F 4x5 film to 300mb RGB file
Adobe Photoshop 6.0 processed for accurate image fidelity
Lightjet5000 printed on Fuji Crystal Archive paper
signature bottom left
A friend and I had just returned from a late afternoon visit to famous Delicate Arch. My hope had been that we would have enough time after returning to get up to the other icon of the national park, Balanced Rock, and shoot something at sunset. We had good reason to expect excellent light because the afternoon had presented some of the clearest skies I have ever experienced. The clarity of the air over long distances was absolutely dazzling. Besides the obvious requirement of low dust and particulates, it also meant the water vapor content must have been extremely dry. My hike returning from Delicate Arch had been slowed. It was the second and worst day of suffering from what was to be several days of tendonitis to a tendon atop my ankle. Walking down the slope from the arch was a trial of how much pain I could bear in order to get back down to the parking lot soon enough.
Leaving the crowded parking lot with little time to spare, we quickly drove the five miles uphill to the ridge top. As we arrived, the light was already spectacular but not yet peaked. My friend set up for a shot back at the parking lot. My sights were set on getting a mug shot up close. Thus I quickly hobbled up the paved path towards the formation and from experience sized up where I needed to tripod within seconds. My camera already had the correct 150mm lens installed in my view camera's front standard and the focus was still approximately focused from last shot I had taken up at the arch. Most important, the time consuming side-to-side swing movement adjustment would not need to be changed. Focusing is the most tedious process of view camera work, and dim light makes such that more difficult. Somehow I managed to tune up the tilt focus quickly. Then as peak red light approached, made a quick reflective reading with my Dual Polaris digital light meter at a few scene points. From that selected a 12.5 EV reading to set shutter speed and aperture to. A Quickload Provia sheet was shoved into the holder and I was ready. Watched the scene for just moments in approval then depressed the shutter release cable button.
Balanced Rock is a short muddy red sandstone formation in Jurassic Period Entrada Formation Sandstone. 150 million year old tidal flats sediments from the days of dinosaurs. The 5000 foot elevation ridge it sits on along with many other prominent Windows Section formations stick up above lower level elevations for over 50 miles westward across the dry clear air of the San Rafael Desert. One of the most remote areas from pollution sources in our continental USA. The sun sets atop the slightly higher San Rafael Swell essentially limited by only the Earth's curvature, thus presenting an opportunity when water vapor is dry for some of the best alpenglow anywhere. Making this alpenglow even better was a mid level atmosphere cloud deck to the west that funneled warm light off its base thus magnifying the warm light. Few days each year are so clear as on this lucky day and to get the cloud underlit phenomenon too at the same time is a rare coincidence one cannot expect to normally see on a vacation to the area. Nicely complementing the frame are some fine clouds tinted a bit from the warm light to a cool purple. To the lower right of Balanced Rock is its higher blocky neighboring formation. One will only get light on both formations like this near the summer equinox. At the edge of the right formation in pink skies poking above the silhouetted junipers, one can see pink light on one of the snowy La Sal Mountains peaks. And below the peak barely above the trees, some red alpenglow on yet another rounded formation further back on the ridge.
It is times like this as a photographer that I am glad to be using one of the best color slide films, Fuji Provia 100F, for capturing accurate colors of the landscape as an overly saturated film would have gone out of gamut.