Images from the Film Archives – 2002
Between Escalante and Torrey, Utah, lies one of the most scenic drives in America. This small section of Route 12, a designated Scenic Byway, runs through some rugged slickrock, down to the canyons of the Escalante River and Calf Creek, back up along a steep hogback where there are no shoulders or guardrails, as you look straight down on both sides of the road!! Great views are had in both directions as you head toward Boulder, and if you continue on, the road splits; one way continues along the Burr Road into some rugged and scenic desert backcountry, while the other takes you up into the alpine reaches of Boulder Mountain within Dixie National Forest.
It was Boulder Mountain that was my destination on this sunny afternoon, hoping to find a vantage point over the surrounding deserts that lay so far below, for a sunset photo shoot. I was surprised to find mile upon mile of the highway lined with aspen trees, all wearing the golden color of autumn. It was my first encounter with aspens, being from the east, where they are few, and certainly not the full mountainsides as there were here. Since there were no clouds for a dramatic sky at sunset, I began to search for a spot where I could fill the frame with the golden leaves, with just a few of the white trunks to break up the mass of gold. After not too much searching, I found a dirt area to park right near a huge wall of gold. Even though it was a pretty high elevation, there wasn’t any wind to speak of, and the leaves of the quaking aspens weren’t moving at all. In fact, these trees were named specifically because the slightest breeze would cause the leaves to “quake”, thus quaking aspen.
So with a very small aperture of between f/22-f/32, I was able to take long exposures of 4-seconds to have the maximum depth of field using the 210mm (130mm on full frame). I was thrilled to have taken the second photo seen in the post, and felt extremely lucky to have so easily found the composition I searched for. So I decided to walk further along the road to see if there were anything else to photograph, and I came across the image at the top. I liked the evenly positioned trunks, the yellow background, and the blue tones on the trunks reflecting the blue sky above that offset the gold. I couldn’t believe the good fortune to find two (!) aspen images that completely filled the frame, that afternoon, but by now the light began to fade, and in order to continue using the small apertures necessary for sharpness through as much of the frame as possible, shutter times needed to be lenghtened considerably. Not only was I adding time to what was deemed proper by the meter because of so much white and bright yellow in the frame, but recipropocity failure was also a concern, so even longer shutter speeds were necessary to compensate for that as well. Times ranged between 8-32 seconds, using the second hand on my watch as a timer. And all the while it seemed each leaf stood completely still for every exposure.
Yet, all the next day, there was the nagging doubt that either the leaves were moving during the exposure, or I hadn’t taken enough of a spread of shutter times to get a correct exposure for any of the shots. So I committed to reattempt the same shot the following afternoon to make sure I had gotten what I needed to do justice to the scene. I didn’t think it could be as calm as it was the previous afternoon, but amazingly, the air was just as still, and I exposed quite a bit of film…again! It wouldn’t be until almost a month later that I would find out if I had gotten a useful chrome out of all those shots. As it turned out, there were plenty to choose from, and for that I am thankful.