Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Superstition Mountains

Superstition Mountains
East of Phoenix, Arizona

This is my Arizona shot that I mentioned in comments a week or so ago reminded me of Ansel Adams. It's just the kind of scene you find him photographing -- in B&W -- again and again. It has the grandeur of the mountains, the textural details of the water, the cottonwoods and the saguaros, and it has interesting weather conditions -- in this case clouds throwing distinct stripes of shade -- to subtly enrich this detail and create the tone modulations that Adams captured in a myriad of grays. While I spent about ten minutes in this spot, Adams would have camped out here for hours or even days to perfect his shot. Plus he was a modernist genius! But it was fun to be on his turf and to emulate him, however inadequately.


Tom Hilton said...

Great shot. The cloud shadows alone are worth the price of admission.

ahab said...

Thanks! I didn't think about it, but I was sort of on your turf and Generik's too. Serves you both right for shooting winter scenes.

I chased those clouds and their effect on the mountains all afternoon that day. I missed shot after shot as I couldn't find parking in time to catch the cloud shadows, until this time I hiked up a short hill and just as I turned to head back the sky opened up. Lucky break.

You do see in Adams's work, though, a lot of interesting weather effects. I bet he was a real storm-chaser. Whereas you, Tom, probably try to avoid stormy conditions when you do your hikes.

E-6 said...

Beautiful shot with some seriously gorgeous colors. Those blues are sublime. And as Tom notes, that cloud shadow is rich.

Generik said...


This is so different from most of your posts here, and yet captures why Tom and I (I'm presuming to speak for him) are so happy to share this space with you. What a fucking amazing shot!

Thanks for this, my friend.

ahab said...

Thanks, guys. That blue was the color I was chasing, E. Wherever the clouds fell, entire mountains and ranges of mountains turned that deep, majestic blue. The rest was almost a bonus. Generik, thanks for the kind words. This photo blog sure beats bitching about Republicans, huh?

And about the weather thing...it just has me thinking about the luck element in this hobby. I've been to AZ and taken this same scenic mountain route out of town and down into Tucson (and back) probably twenty times or more. But throw in a freak storm system and you get something semi-magical (meaning the day, not so much my shot). I have to plan my trips weeks in advance, so there's no picking and choosing good weather days or weeks. It's pure luck. In fact I'd be as likely to cancel a trip to avoid weather out there -- the Phoenix airport was closed the day before our arrival -- as I would be to fly into the teeth of it.

This shot was an absolute gift. Point and shoot. Weird. But weather is the wildcard.

One other thing comes to mind about this shot in the context of Ansel Adams. We see his spectacular mountain shots and envision him treking for days to these remote spots. But in truth Adams also got a lot of his best shots right along busy trails and even along roads in the National Parks. He used to like cruising around and looking for photo ideas, and he'd occasionally run into masterpieces just sitting there waiting to be clicked. Of course there's a whole technical and artistic genius he brought to the mix, but the shots are often right there nearby. Funny to think about.