On the last day of October 2007, I went into the cosmic rock garden known as the Alabama Hills, beneath the eastern wall of California’s Sierra Nevada Mountains. Though I have photographed in the Alabama Hills since the early 1970s, I felt I needed to break out of a mold of photographing backlit or edge-lit rocks … and I did!
Most exciting for me was when I found an enormous over- hanging boulder, from which other boulders could be framed in relationship to the giant under which I stood. I quickly set up my 4×5 Linhof Technika camera, with a 75mm wide-angle lens to include a good deal of the boulder above me, as well as the rocks in the distance, visually replicating my own feeling of the foreground rock seemingly smothering or eating the more distant boulders. I almost felt like I was being swallowed myself. It was an overwhelming feeling.
But after exposing the negative, I walked around the area very slowly, trying to see if there could be an even better way of photographing the subject, an even better set of relationships between the over- hanging boulder and the others in the distance. There was.
Walking forward three or four steps and hugging even closer to the overhang, I felt that the rocky ridge above my head could be a stronger lead-in line for an improved photograph. Using the same lens, but from the new camera position (the spot where I placed a white square in Figure 1), I was also able to include more of the distant rocks, giving a feel of more space, and was even able to include a third layer of visibility: distant Mt. Lone Pine of the Sierra.
In addition, it seemed to me that the curved sweep of the granite boulder over my head was more lyrical and stronger than that of the first composition. I even liked the small sage brushes and their shadows in the lower center and right, producing somewhat of a pathway into the scene. I exposed a second negative. (You’ll notice that the boulder cluster in the lower left-center of the second images is the same group that’s on the right edge in the first exposure.)
Having felt that I made a significant improvement over that of the first exposure, I searched for an even better cam- era position for a while; finding none, I walked away in search of additional images elsewhere.