After three and a half months with only two short short fall excursions, I was finally able to make a longer trip to do some more photography. The weekend before Thanksgiving I headed out to Southern Utah to explore some areas I had visited many years ago with my parents, as well as meet up with photographers and friends Guy Tal, Marc Adamus and Jay Goodrich. The first stop on my adventure was to re-explore Zebra Canyon, which is a short but incredibly photogenic twisty sandstone slot canyon in Escalante National Monument. I’d been there two years ago, but a storm was rolling in at the time, and I didn’t get the vibrant reflected light that I was hoping for. This time, however, I had crystal clear skies and thus good reflected light in the forecast.

Typically the approach to the canyon is just a tight squeeze through a narrow slot section before you get to the really photogenic part. Recent rains ensured that this 50 yard long section was filled with belly-button deep stagnant water, and given the -4C temperatures I had over night it took some strong will power to squeeze through there! An hour or so after I had wriggled into the canyon the sunlight reached one of the back canyon walls and everything was bathed in a beautiful golden reflected light.

"Sandstone Drapes" ~ Escalante National Monument, UT
The Tech: Canon 5D2, 45mm TS-E, tripod
Exposure: iso 100, f/16, 1.3 sec
Notes: 3 exposure shift-panorama at two different focus settings, blended with Helicon Focus and PTGui.

That evening I explored a remote part of Escalante that I remember visiting with my parents many years ago — when I was just starting to get interested in photography (with my dad’s ancient Olympus OM2n film camera). Hidden in this sandstone wilderness of smooth slickrock are mysterious deep bowls formed by countless years of erosion. While many are just seasonal bathtubs, some are home to contenders for the loneliest trees on the planet. These trees, cottonwoods mostly, somehow manage to make a living in these isolated environments, either working their roots through the sandstone or gleaning enough nutrients from whatever lands in their bowls. In the heat of the summer I imagine these miniature biospheres are a paradise for those that can safely get in and out. I set my alarm for 4:45am, just in time to watch the nearly full moon set under partly cloudy skies filled with twinkling stars.

I recommend clicking the image to view it on the dark background of my website.

cottonwood in escalante national monument, utah

"Dreams of Solitude" ~ Escalante National Monument, UT
The Tech: Canon 5D2, 16-35mm mkII, tripod, LED spotlight
Exposure (sky): iso 400, f/5.6, 10 min
Exposure (foreground): iso 800, f/11, 5 min
Notes: the exposure for the sky actually consists of two consecutive 5 min exposures stacked. The foreground exposure was taken ~1 hour later under the first glow of twilight. I used my spotlight to add a slight accent light to the tree.

I’ve got a whole series of images waiting to be posted, so check back often as I’m going to try to share them all before my trip to Yellowstone over the holidays. For those of you that celebrate it, I hope you had a great Thanksgiving!

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9 Comments to “Dreams of Solitude”

  1. Jay Goodrich says:

    Wonderful images Floris! I cannot wait to see more. Hope you are well.

  2. Jose Viegas says:

    Hi Floris

    Glad to see you back posting your fantastic shots, I can’t wait to see the rest of this series.


  3. Thanks Jay and Jose!

    Looking forward to seeing the images from your trip Jay.

  4. Lovely Floris, may I ask if you saw difference with the shift technique compared to a single capture?

  5. Thanks Kostas. The resolution of the resulting shifted image is about 36 megapixels. If I had used a single exposure, and cropped to 4×5 format, it would have been about 16 megapixels. So I’ve doubled the detail — in a big print this will make a significant difference.

  6. Thanks for the reply Floris 🙂 I was mostly curious about the 2 different focus captures! any difference compared to a stich of a captures from the same focus point? haven’t ever tried a digital Scheimpflug technique 🙂

  7. Kostas – ahh, sorry. At one focus setting (to get the more distant features in focus) I took three exposures with shift set to max, min, and none. Then I adjusted the focus (to get the foreground elements in focus), and then took three more exposures at the same shift settings. I merged the panoramas in PTGui for the two sets of images, using the same settings, and then blended the two panoramas with Helicon Focus (you could do the other way around too).

    The result is a high resolution image that is in focus front to back. In tight quarters like this canyon it’s impossible to get everything in focus in a single exposure at this long of a focal length.

  8. Beate Dalbec says:

    Gorgeous images – I am looking forward to seeing more of your trip!

  9. Amazing stuff Floris. Really enjoy your stories and images!