Monday, July 19

One year camera anniversary

Though I had begun practicing photography with my dad's Nikon FM some eighteen months earlier, the Nikon D60 was my first digital camera, bought in anticipation of my year in Kenya and year away from darkrooms.  A variety of blog posts appearing before and around this time suggest the import attached to this event.  The following is the very first picture I took with it:

I like to think that I have gotten a little bit better since then.  It has been a year after all.  To celebrate the anniversary I am treating you all to extended analyses of some of my favorite pictures replete with outtakes and less successful pictures of the same subject.  I begin with the most popular of my pictures as determined by unique views.  Seen by 335 different people since I posted it to Picasa and narrowly beating out one monkey scratching the back of another and Demetra watching a pack of zebras pass by, I give you the cliffs of Hell's Gate National Park in Kenya.

Anyone who visits Hell's Gate sees these cliffs.  Before coming to the crossroads that direct visitors between the obsidian caves and the geysers, one passes these.  They really are something else, rising out from what are otherwise the rolling hills just past the eastern edge of the Great Rift Valley as though some toddler in his sandbox had decided that one of his greater hills needed only to be half so large and he made the separation through the center line.

The fundamental composition is one I am fond of and have used with some success in pictures of Pokot like the one below:

In a flat plane, there are two distinct parts, and one dominates the physical space.  In the picture of the cliffs this works to give them the proper sense of immensity as they fill out the picture, almost pushing against the boundaries imposed by the frame yet still maintain a ground and context through the narrow strip of grass at the bottom.  Texture, too, is emphasized between the edges of the rock and blades of the thick grass.

Reviewing my pictures from that day, something is immediately striking about this particular shot in comparison to the others.  It includes no sky.  Compare to the following shots, all taken within minutes of the featured.

They have an upper limit in the sky.  They have boundaries within the frame and are constrained.  Though they are more complete pictures and are no doubt more fascinating to those with some interest in the geology of the area as the layer of smaller fractures atop the long vertical lines are revealed, these cliffs lack the majesty of my and your favorite shot, especially without a strong sense of scale.

I will be continuing this series all week, and if you would like to make any nominations for others that deserve a deeper look or just want to see more of my oeuvre, you can visit my Picasa albums.

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