I went on a camping trip to Caprock Canyons State Park in north Texas. I was in hopes of getting in some good hikes and some good photos. My first day there I arrived about an hour and a half before sunset, so I didn’t have long to set up my tent and then hike around a little to see what I could shoot. I did take some photos but I wasn’t really happy with them so I figured that I’d just post about what I don’t like about them.
With the first photo the concept is some yucca in the foreground with the red-orange cliffs in the background. All I got was clear blue skies on this trip, but I think that the red-orange of the cliffs works well against a blue sky, so I am not bothered by that. My thought was the yucca setting the environmental mood of the arid landscape, with high cliffs in the distance catching the yellow evening sunlight. I shot this wide (24mm) to exaggerate the yucca in the foreground against the cliffs that really aren’t that far away. Below is what I got.
Now here is what I don’t like about this photo. I like the yucca, but it is in a mess of grass and sticks that result in it not being well defined. While framing in the yucca, I let the cliffs get too close to the top of the frame and they don’t have enough room. The cliffs are blurry because the subject is close to the camera. There is a bright horizontal patch of grass across the middle of the frame that I find distracting. So, I suppose I could have switched to a wider lens and focus stacked, but the grass is the grass and this was the best yucca I could find to shoot.
Next there is this image with the wall of a dry creek bed curving across the scene with our cliffs in the distance. I really thought that I’d like the line made by the wall of the ravine if I could do something with it. The greenery in the middle of the photo was supposed to provide a little visual separation. I took a lot of takes on this idea but never really got it right.
First of all, the wall of the ravine does make a line in the photo and it leads you no where. It drags you off to the left and out of frame instead of highlighting the cliffs in the background. Second, there is a large shadow on the left side of the image that is distractingly pointless. I did try a different angle from farther down the ravine, but then the ravine wall is just a boring line across the bottom of the frame. But hey, everything is in focus.
Next there are these layers of gypsom (I think) in the ground and you can see the white stripes in the soil where it has eroded. I think that looks kind of neat, so I tried to get a photo of the lines in the side of the ravine leading off into the distance with our high peaks in the distance. Again, I got up close at shot wide (24mm) so that the foreground part would seem exagerated.
I think the idea was OK, but I don’t think I had the right location. I’m not sure if there is a right location. There are ravines all throughout this valley and I didn’t search them all. From this location there were many problems. First, with the side-lighting from the setting sun there are deep shadows on the left and a brilliantly lit ravine wall on the right. It was even worse before I raised the shadows and reduced the highlights and then masked the area and did it again. It’s just lop-sided. Also, gnarly twisted plants mess up my composition in a couple of places and the image doesn’t flow very well. Finally, the wide angle makes the distant cliffs look too small; the answer to this would be to back up with a longer focal length but this really wasn’t an option.
Arriving late Sunday afternoon, I had very little time to explore the area and shoot and I kind of got a bunch of messy photos I think. The late afternoon sun on the red-orange cliffs is so pretty that it really is hard to know where to shoot. I think there are better compositions here, but I didn’t find them. But it was fun to talk about why none of these photos worked I guess. One thing to note is that I shot all of these wide so perhaps I would have been better off using a bit longer of a focal length. Something I have been trying to think about as I shoot, but I always have this urge to get everything in the photo.
The next morning I would attempt a hike with a steep and rocky climb up to the high cliffs. We’ll see how that went on my next blog post.
5 thoughts on “Some Caprock Canyons Photos and Why They Don’t Work”
I could see you teaching a photography class. Interesting to hear what you don’t like about the photos. I still like them though. Red cliffs and the clear blue Texas aky. Especially as I look out my window at our gray one.
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Been nothing but gray drizzly skies here for about a week.
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Oops! Guess we sent some of our weather your way, sorry. I didn’t think the skies ever got gray in Texas. LOL!
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They all work for me. I like the last pic best. I think those lines of gypsum in the rock look interesting. And even though the cliffs in the background look small, their unusual shape contributes to a unique image.
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I’m with Joyroseses13: I could see you teaching a photography class. I know that the best photography takes the viewer beyond the two dimensions, and your explanations seem to show what to look for in gaining that skill. Thanks!
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