new topographics

Rainbows, Beehives, & Jack Rabbits

The other day I decided to go fishing on the Portneuf River, about an hour’s drive from home. Got out there before sunrise and encountered a live skunk at my first pull-off point so I decided to go further up the river to another access area. As I pulled on my waders in the dim light of pre-dawn, the silence was broken by the raucous cawing of crows, followed by small flights of ducks and geese with their associated honking. So much for Nature being quiet! Regardless, being alone in the cold river (except for the pre-historic looking Great Blue Heron gliding above the river’s channel) casting dry flies upstream was a powerful moment of solitude to enjoy before the excitement of another semester at the university.

After a steady rain finally let up, the skies began to breakup and just as I climbed up the river’s bank I noticed this lovely rainbow that arched from one side of the mountain to the other. Unfortunately, I only had my Fujifilm X-20 retro range-finder digital camera. No ultra-wide angle lens to capture the entire view.

Eventually I drove up the road a bit and took a gravel road along Pebble Creek, where I was high enough the clouds were at my level. Here I also came across a couple of Jack Rabbits! Frankly I didn’t know they lived this far north. I’ve always encountered them in Texas or the desert southwest. Interesting.

Next, I drove along Toponce Creek, were I saw a dead badger and several wild turkeys. Here I did catch a small lively Brook Trout and promptly released it. When the fishing slowed down, I drove along the Chesterfield area where I kept coming across beehives. I was fascinated by their interesting colors. Several ranchers had these multi-colored boxes stacked in their fields. Finally I had to stop and switch roles from trout fisher to photographer! But once back in the Portneuf River in the afternoon, I landed three nice rainbow trout and released several others. Excellent way to spend the day!

Afterwards: The colorful beehive shot was used as a book cover for British poet, John Looker‘s collection titled “The Human Hive”. Here’s a link to a poem he dedicated to photography.

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Road Tripping in the Arco Desert, Moon Craters and Atomic Venues

Last month I had the opportunity to slip away from the university for a day and went on a photo road trip with fellow photographer, John Lowry. Our adventure began well before sunrise as we headed out to the Snake River Plain and headed northwest into the Arco Desert. First stop in the bone-chilling weather was Atomic City, a quasi-ghost town not far from the INL (Idaho National Laboratory). This entire region is an interesting mix of ancient basaltic lava flows, atomic wastelands, and current nuclear testing facilities.

My planned experiments for the day centered on the vast landscape to be photographed through my super wide-angle Rokinon 14mm/f2.8 lens. The objective was to use a 1.2 ND filter attached to the backside of the lens, which would reduce my exposures by 4 f-stops. Ultimately, the plan called for windy conditions that would allow for cloud movement during the slow exposures. Alas, the wind didn’t cooperate and the clouds stood still. Bummer. But regardless of Mother Nature’s lack of support in this endeavor, we did have a great time and created a variety of images. Enjoy!

New Topographics in West Kansas

For some time I’ve noted what appeared to be very banal photos of landscapes, especially the urban or suburban. What I had been viewing was a genre as “New Topographics”, which has its roots in the 1975 landscape exhibit curated by William Jenkins at the International Museum of Photography at the George Eastman House. Specifically, that show was titled “New Topographics: Photographs of a Man-Altered Landscape“. It featured work by artists such as Robert Adams, Lewis Baltz, Bernd and Hilla Becher, Frank Gohlke, and Stephen Shore.

When I attended the 2008 annual conference for the SPE, I was re-introduced to Robert Adams’ seemingly straightforward B&W work during one of the many lectures. Afterwards, on reviewing my personal archive, I realized over many years I too had been shooting in a similar vein. Thus, during my recent sojourn to west Kansas, I paid homage to this genre once again and created the short “topographic” study illustrated below.

Gas Station #1, Oakley, Kansas. © 2012 Terry Ownby.

Gas Station #2, Oakley, Kansas. © 2012 Terry Ownby.

Quonset Hut, Russell Springs, Kansas. © 2012 Terry Ownby,

Municipal Shed, Russell Springs, Kansas. © 2012 Terry Ownby,