In late April 2007, I co-instructed a workshop with Don Rommes in the Escalante Canyons of Utah. Don and I have conducted these workshops since 2001; they include a five-day backpack into the extraordinary canyons. Each year we select a different set of canyons to explore. This year we hiked the full length of Wolverine Canyon to Horse Canyon, where we set up camp (llamas carry in the gear for the outing).
On the final day, we hiked back to the trailhead again through Wolverine Canyon. Entering Wolverine from its confluence with Horse Canyon, you’re immediately struck by the convoluted walls on either side of the narrow entrance into this remarkably surreal location.
It was a sunny day, and sunlight was just beginning to edge the north wall, brightly lighting the portions of the wall protruding from the recessed sections adjacent to them. I found one of the sunlit forms to be particularly elegant and lyrical in character, and the patterns of salt leaching into the adjacent hollows to be especially painterly. I set up my 4×5 Linhof Master Technika camera with my 150mm Fujinon lens to photograph it.
Several students were there, so I showed them the difference in the scene with and without a #58 deep green filter, requiring a filter factor of three full stops. For this image, the green filter made an immense difference. The walls were a rather dark reddish brown, though not a deeply saturated color. The salt leaching (caused by rainwater drying in patterns) was virtually chalk white where it had accumulated thickly, and lighter shades of gray where it wasn’t as thick.
The green filter darkened the walls significantly, making the salt patterns jump out to the eye. The sunlit rock, was, of course, still brighter than the shadowed, salt-leaching patterns, and the green filter actually subdued its brightness a bit, which helped keep it more in tonal balance with the rest of the scene. To get adequate separation of detail in the shadowed hollows (I always place the darkest shadows where I want detail in Zone 4 or even higher for negative exposure), I used a 21/2 second exposure at ƒ/22 with the filter. In developing this negative back in my darkroom a few days later, I slightly reduced the inherent contrast of the scene.