Grand Sky

I’ve been over in Tucson AZ seeing friends, enjoying a holiday and playing with a new camera. I got an Olympus Pen EP1, so that I can keep a small camera with me all the time which should be good enough to take a professional picture. We’ll see! It performed extremely well under the hot desert sun. The pictures here are, in some respects, examples of where it isn’t comparable to the E3, however let the camera talk finish there.
These are both night photographs from the rim of the Grand Canyon on a moonless night. What a fantastic sight, it’s really unbelievable just how many stars there are. I’m used to seeing stars in North Devon where light pollution is minimal, but here at the GC, 7,500 feet higher, you feel you can touch them. I remember feeling disappointed that I wasn’t going to see a full moon whilst in the USA, but no moon, in some respects, is better.
The light on the canyon wall in the photo below comes from dimly lit Bright Angel lodge, a mile away. I was also amazed at how much a little light can make in such a dark place. Even my small, LED torch (flashlight), could make a huge difference. One would have thought a place as wild and pristine as the Grand Canyon could restrict their lights to the floor and the inside of buildings rather than lighting places miles away. I guess light waves are much like sound waves; you shout to someone across a room 30ft away, but when you shout on the rim of the Grand Canyon those waves travel 12 miles and reflect of the North Rim wall and travel 12 miles back again as an echo less than a second later.
I’m reliably corrected by Paul Madgett, thanks Paul: “sound travels at around 1100ft/sec at sea-level (though a little slower at higher altitudes) – ie roughly 5 seconds for a mile – thus any echo from a shout across the full 12-mile width of the Canyon would take about 2 minutes – if you were hearing an echo in less than a second, this must have been from nearby canyon walls on your side of the Canyon. Light, on the other hand, at about 300,000km/sec would take less than 1/10000 sec to “echo”.

Turning Night into Day

On January’s full moon, Mike Bentley and I went down to Clovelly and onto Black Church Rock at Mill Mouth. The night was unbelievably clear with a huge, bright, full moon. We’d brought torches with us but hardly needed to use them. Walking down the track at 9pm was an eerie experience as, without warning, roosting pheasants would fly, startled, out of trees and old misshaped oaks would spread contorted shadows over the path ahead. At one stage we had to traverse a fallen tree, it’s trunks width being equal to our height.

The forest had managed to keep the frost at bay but as we got onto the beach the pebbles were suddenly very slippy. Moving down the beach, ice soon turned to water and still further to dry stone thanks to the breeze. Travelling over a rocky shore is always dangerous and I wouldn’t recommend trying it at night to anyone, the harsh moon light confuses any spacial awareness, the shadows blacker than black.

Black Church Rock was magnificent in this dream world, our photographs describe the colour far better than the rods in our eyes. The landscape format picture above is of me taking the portrait format, by Mike Bentley. I believed I could see well in this light but to give you an idea of the amount of light the photograph above was 400iso, f2.8 and 1 minute exposure; the limits of my camera without my (broken) cable release. It’s noticeable from the image that the horizon isn’t straight – seeing to compose is so difficult and focusing complete guesswork. Even focusing with torchlight or with the camera flash is impossible with this dark rock.The colour in these pictures is amazing though. The reflected daylight and harsh shadow is evocative of a hot, bright, summers day. However the addition of a coloured light in the above photograph and the stars in the sky do much to question this assumption.