Tuesday, December 9, 2014

The Zabriskie Pt. Dilemma

Zabriskie Pt.;  Photo: © Stan Banos
Update: have inserted new & improved version since original posting.

Although I certainly don't go around combining negatives a la Eugene Smith, even this rudimentary snap is far from "straight." Taken at Death Valley just before a rather tumultuous thunderstorm complete with lightning and flash flooding, there was plenty to look at when I pressed the shutter, but the lighting was flatter than the flattest flat. No problem when you're shooting with a view camera that captures all the subtle tonal nuances and gradations, but when you're shooting 35mm, I knew it was gonna be one major problem galore long before I made the exposure, and didn't give it more than a fifty/fifty chance of seeing the "light of day." The first time I brought it up in PS, I went through the motions for 20 minutes, and it looked like my apprehension was well justified- couldn't do a damn thing with it. He was officially a goner...

Half a year later on a wet and dreary Sunday afternoon when I ain't going anywhere, I stumbled upon him once again. I'm no football fan, so... Take II. The only way I was going to win this formidable test of will was to patiently keep futzing around with the contrast and tonal values locally until they somehow gelled and approximated what I saw- or at least felt at the time. It took me the better part of a day (and then some), admittedly my PS (Elements 9) skills are absolute nominal (at best).

Had I attempted this in the darkroom, I would have emerged several days later, having wasted enough paper to fell yet another, entire old growth forest's worth of trees, kicked the cat, kicked the dog (if I had one), and given the wife more than ample reason to seek out a lawyer. And... have nothing of consequence for the effort!

The photo hints of an overcast sun highlighting the clouds and caressing the contours of the landforms- there was none, not even close. Nonetheless, dramatic they were! And a guy's gotta do, what a guy's gotta do...      

BTW-  It is dilemma- not dilemna...

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