Mark Bargen  

Coal Mine Canyon (Gold) by Mark Bargen

January 2022 - Coal Mine Canyon (Gold)

January 2022 - Mark Bargen


About the Image(s)

Fortunately, Coal Mine Canyon hasn't yet become one of those "must see" locations in Arizona. Before going I studied every image and video of the place that I could find. There's not much. My intent was to understand the place as well as I could, so that once on site I would at least have a general idea as to what I wanted to showcase.

At first glance, the place seems impossibly chaotic. However, the rim (this was captured at one of several rim locations) looks out on these hoodoos and a "path" that leads out into a deep floor with scattered rock formations and badlands; viewed from the rim, this felt like a gate into a remote and completely different world, and I felt a deep longing to go there.

As the Sun cleared the eastern horizon, it began to illuminate the edges of the hoodoos. Gradually those glints of light became brighter, but the ambient light also increased. This image was captured at the point I consider the peak, i.e., the glints are most distinct. At this time, the eastern wall of the Canyon was still deep in shadow, but ambient light and light reflected from above partially illuminated the western faces of the hoodoos. The Canyon floor beyond my "gate" was well lit with raking light. In the distance one could see the desert floor and a range of cliffs in the far distance. While I stood there shooting, I was no longer caught up in the logistics of the shoot; all I had to do was watch and press the shutter release occasionally. The moment, for me, created a deep sense of longing to go somewhere I could not even imagine, and I began to understand that the hoodoos stood solemnly and silently watching the road to that place.

Capture: September 24, 2021 at 6:53 AM MST (GMT-07), about 30 minutes after sunrise.
Canon EOS R5 with RF 100-500mm F4.5-7.1 L IS USM at 135mm.
1/160 second, f/13, ISO 200

Extensive edits in post (in Adobe Photoshop). I felt that the image was really comprised of five different zones: the right-hand Canyon wall, in deep shadow; the hoodoos with warmer light, as well as the brighter "glints"; the left-hand canyon wall in warm but suffuse light; the canyon floor beyond the "gate"; and the topmost portion of the frame in the distance. Each required its own treatment.

P.S., I submitted this image last month for review by DSG 29, and this is a new edition reflecting some of the comments I received there.

11 comments posted

Dawn Gulino
Hi Mark
Nice image. I really like how you brought out the highlights and warmed it up a bit as well.
I'm sure you already received this feedback, but would be nice to see more on the bottom part of the frame if it was possible given you cropped the sky. I'd also try to crop the far left hoodoo out as I keep going back to it to see the left side of it and it's distracting to my eye.
  Posted: 01/03/2022 19:32:35
Mark Bargen   Mark Bargen
As for wishing for more at the lower margin, unfortunately there are no pixels to restore. I framed up the image nearly an hour earlier, while it was difficult to see. As the light changed I often gave thought to adjusting the composition, but resisted the urge. So many times in the past I've ruined something by trying to make it better in the excitement of the moment. Sigh ... I find some consolation, though, in telling myself that I stand by this composition. Reviewing an ultra-wide image shot in near darkness (which I happen to like a lot, see attached), and cropping similarly except for including more at the bottom, I find that the sense of the "watchers" is sacrificed, and the new material included isn't actually all that interesting.   Posted: 01/04/2022 19:47:12
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Mark Bargen   Mark Bargen
Thanks, Dawn. You're not the first to have remarked on the hoodoo at the left margin. I agree, now, that it is problematic, but I haven't yet settled on a solution. I'm disinclined to crop it; the nearest reasonable crop-to point is the saddle to its right, and once that much is gone, I find the image unbalanced. I've tried warping out out (see attached rough attempt), and I find that to be less unsatisfactory, but I'm not convinced, at least not yet. I have yet to try to tone it down, but that won't be trivial, as I'll need to consider what else needs to be adjusted to maintain fall-of-light plausibility, and those adjustments will probably lead to adjusting the rocks behind to compensate for loss of depth. I'll give it a try.

  Posted: 01/04/2022 19:39:38
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Paul Smith   Paul Smith
Wonderful image...good use of f/13...would be even better if the background haze could be removed!   Posted: 01/05/2022 10:16:47
Mark Bargen   Mark Bargen
Thanks, Paul. Actually I "dehazed" to the extent I found believable. (I don't use the Dehaze slider in LrC; instead I use Tony Kuyper's Adjustment process in Ps, which as near as I can figure out is a High Pass filter and a clipped Brightness / Contrast Adjustment).

Keep in mind: the "badland" formations on the floor of the Canyon, seen in the distance through the "gateway", are 5KM away. The distant rim of the canyon is about 10Km away. The distant Cliffs (the gray bad that e xtends edge to edge) is much further.   Posted: 01/05/2022 11:49:32
Paul Smith   Paul Smith
...two things...tell me about Tony Kuyper, then about the book you wrote!   Posted: 01/06/2022 16:55:10
Mark Bargen   Mark Bargen
Oops ... "In my book" is a figure of speech meaning "according to my rule book" or "according to my code of ethics" ...

Tony Kuyper is the creator of the "TK8 Panel". It's basically a very extensive and versatile toolkit plugin for Adobe Photoshop 2022. I believe his previous release, TK7 Panel, is also still available, and it is compatible with Photoshop 2021 and earlier. No presets, no "click here to get this effect" (well maybe one or two). I find I use it extensively, especially for creating luminosity, zone, color, and saturation masks, but also for several advanced techniques such as frquency separation, and "dehazing".

If it intersts you, I'd recommend going over to the
Sean Bagshaws website ( Sean markets the panel for Tuny, but he has also prepared some of the very best Photoshop tutorial videos I've come across and, of course, excellent tutorials re the TK Panel. I learned pretty much everything I've learned about Photoshop from Sean's videos (plus a lot of doing it 'til I thought I'd got it right).
  Posted: 01/06/2022 17:32:41
Paul Smith   Paul Smith
Many thanks   Posted: 01/07/2022 10:27:54

Darcy Quimby   Darcy Quimby
First, I wanted to congratulate you on having a photo pictured on the main page.
I think the degree of dehaze is good it leaves my eye to trail off in the distance. Blake Rudis has a similar system of zones and panels.
Thanks for sharing your wisdom and pictures   Posted: 01/17/2022 13:36:51
Mark Bargen   Mark Bargen
Thanks for your kind words!
I, too, use Blake Rudi's panels, mostly for color tuning. He sells several different panels. The one I fine most useful is his "Zone System Express". I also find his "palette Effects" very useful for B&W conversion; a bit difficult to use, but allows for more precision and control than I can achieve with a Ps B&W adjustment or with ACR.   Posted: 01/18/2022 09:58:44

Ed O’Rourke   Ed O’Rourke
When I look at a photo I first deliberately try to determine what is, for me, its "artistic impact" before I start to considering the other aspect of the photo. Mark, for pretty much all of the photos you submit I consider that "artistic impact" to be very high. I then try to consider the elements such as composition, contrast, focus / depth of field, color etc. to see how they contribute to that "artistic impact".

I think your composition is good with the hoodoos in the foreground creating a base while the close cliffs on the side work to draw my eye to the center and the "gate" to the scene beyond it. I also believe that the lighting works well in creating interest with the well lit hoodoos and the shadows on the wall of the right cliff, and again this brings my eye to the center and out to the valley beyond the canyon. Great Job   Posted: 01/18/2022 17:54:00


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