Colorful Chinle Clay Hills & Wingate Sandstone

Colorful Chinle Clay Hills & Wingate Sandstone

full print size of 29.6x37.6 inches @304.8ppi, above displayed at 1/178
Copyright © David Senesac 2005   view detailed crop

geranium Capitol Reef National Park, Wayne County, Utah
Tuesday afternoon May 19, 2005, slide 05-L-26
Wisner 4x5 Expedition, 90mm Caltar, 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 top left          

Originally our plans were to photograph this location on the first afternoon in Utah on our 22-day trip in May of 2005. Clouds in front of a cold storm front came in making work impossible for a few days so we drove east to try and get in other locations on our itinerary. After the storm passed we noted skies were looking nicely blue. Thus we again re-evaluated continuing east and decided to go back west to Capitol Reef to get in the important photography along the park's Scenic Drive. That afternoon turned out to have deep blue skies without many of the usual clouds that tend to plague the area for photography during afternoons.

This particular nameless section of the cliff was our most important target. I had shot this location on two previous Utah road trips and was determined to expose a big sheet of film successfully here on this trip. It is easily the most colorful one spot of raw earth I've seen anywhere during my years of photography. In the afternoon it takes on a dazzling saturation of color. We were lucky to be there while the sky was also so saturated. This colorful image is in no way the result of the usual overly saturated films that many others use or phony Photoshop contrast and saturation manipulations. The film I use is Fuji Provia 100F which is an excellent color film to bring out natural accurate color while providing the best of fine low speed grain. The best color saturation for rock and earth scenics does not occur early morning near sunrise or late afternoon close to sunset. Rather a couple hours after in the morning or before in the afternoon which can bring out the absorbed luminance of the thin layer of translucence reflecting out from the surface of minerals. Much in the same way that vegetation and wildflowers are always much better at mid morning or mid afternoon when light shines through their glowing translucent parts.

Geology here is at the border of Triassic and Jurassic Periods about 200 to 215 million years ago. At top are cliffs of the Wingate Sandstone Formation and below the eroded bentonite clay slopes of the Chinle Formation. The rainbow clay shades of purple, red, orange, and cyan are a continual wonder for color photographers in Utah. These slope are as good as they get beyond the usual simple red and cyan mix. The clay is an interesting soft crumbly mix of cracked earth that heals itself each time an area receives a good heavy rain. In other words, walking on it will leave some deep footprints. However come back in a couple years and it is quite smooth again. In nearby areas of the Chinle we also found an abundance of petrified wood. Sediments in the Chinle were deposited by rivers that flowed across low-lying basins and became mixed with volcanic ash. The Chinle was also a target of considerable uranium prospecting during the 1950's. The colorful orange cliffs of Wingate Sandstone were likely formed by eolian, that is airborne winds. Along Scenic Drive it forms massive vertical walls for several impenetrable miles. Note the streaks of yellow just right of the center window.

I exposed four sheets at this location. For framing, I centered the window interrupting the Wingate cliffs, while putting its following skyline in the top right corner. For a foreground, moved in front of this section of colored clay while keeping far enough back so as not having to tilt too much or having swing problems on the left. But not so far to the left which would block the triangle of cyan right of center. Geometry is always an important facet of framing I spend a lot of time at with a perfectionist's mindset.

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   David Senesac

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